Hockey fans are in for a treat with this series. Nathan MacKinnon vs Connor McDavid. Leon Draisaitl vs Cale Makar. Colorado Avalanche vs Edmonton Oilers. Two young guns from the West that are the future of the NHL. With players like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog, Evander Kane, Nazem Kadri, Zach Hyman, and Mikko Rantanen to add to the mix, this should be a fireworks show. Both teams have shown their strengths and ability to conquer weaknesses in these playoffs. Now they will play for the right to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. It’s been a while since either of them has made. It’s time to see how they stack up.
Colorado Avalanche vs Edmonton Oilers Series Preview
Avalanche Have Been Road Warriors
The Avalanche have a record of 8-2 in these playoffs. Looking at how they’ve played, it’s not too surprising. What is surprising is the 6-0 road record. Colorado hasn’t just won on the road, they’ve dominated these contests. They’ve won both elimination games in hostile territory. The Avs have outshot their opponents 183-132 on the road, through six games. They’ve outscored their opposition 26-13. The Avalanche are generating a lot of offence and keeping the pressure up. Unless Edmonton can manage to break that streak, Colorado can use their road supremacy to end this series quicker than expected.
The Avs also hold a 3-2 home record, meaning that the Oilers do have a chance to keep it tight. The Avalanche have won 2/3 games in overtime, so Edmonton will need to win games in regulation. Colorado has to at least win one of their home games to stay in the driver’s seat. What serves the away numbers is that Colorado can still win games at Ball Arena. Colorado dominated at home, with a stellar 32-5-4 record. If the Avs can win both initial games in Denver, then the series will very much swing in their favour.
Connor McDavid Is a One Man Army
The main reason for Edmonton’s unprecedented run is their franchise face: Connor McDavid. The Ontario native is having a postseason the NHL hasn’t seen in a very long time. Through 12 playoff games, McDavid has seven goals and 19 assists for 26 points. Averaging 2.2 points per game, the former first overall pick has done everything asked of him and then some. Any hope for a Cup Final appearance will land squarely on the shoulders of Connor McDavid. He will need to maintain his hot streak to keep the Oilers alive.
That’s not to say the Oilers don’t have sidekicks for their Superman. Leon Draisaitl has been the yin to McDavid’s yang. Draisaitl has matched McDavid’s stats, with seven goals and 19 assists for 26 points in 12 games. A third overall pick himself, Leon Draisaitl was selected a year before McDavid was. They’ve been the center of the Oilers’ resurgence for years. A big gamble that’s paid off has been the addition of Evander Kane. In January, Kane was in deep trouble in San Jose, down to the point he was demoted to their AHL affiliate. The Oilers picked him up and they’ve been reaping the rewards in these playoffs. With an astonishing 12 goals in 12 games, Kane has been the finisher for Edmonton’s offence. The Oilers have compliments to their superstar. They’ll need more production from their depth to contend with Colorado.
Kuemper and Smith Need to Step Up
Goaltending is often what makes or breaks a team’s chances to advance through the playoffs. Darcy Kuemper and Mike Smith have yet to play at a consistently elite level like their Eastern counterparts. Mike Smith is the ultimate roller coaster goalie. When he’s on, he can carry his team to a few wins. But when he’s off, he handicaps any chances his team has. The worst part: he changes between these forms at random. Against a team with Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar leading the charge, Smith will need to be at his best. His save percentage is very good, .927%. His goals against average (GAA) has been good as well, allowing 2.7 goals per game. But Edmonton’s inconsistencies on defence, combined with Smith’s volatile play, has forced them into a lot of high-scoring games. They’ve been able to outscore their problems, but that isn’t sustainable.
For the Avs, Darcy Kuemper has been okay so far. He’s made some big saves at times but has also given up some softies. The worst he’s played was Colorado’s Game 5 implosion against the St. Louis Blues. Now, it should be noted he’s faced an average of 24.2 shots per game while his opponents have faced 32.7. This means Colorado isn’t letting Kuemper face too many shots. While it shows the strength of Colorado’s attack, it means Kuemper needs to be sharper when he faces pressure. Against an offence like the Oilers, the Avs will need him at his best. Through nine games, he posts a .904 save percentage. It’s okay, but it’s not enough. Darcy Kuemper was downright brilliant from December through April. He, at times, looked like he should be in the Vezina conversation. The Avalanche has seen his floor. Now they need his ceiling.
Series Prediction For Colorado Avalanche vs Edmonton Oilers
This is what every hockey fan, and sports fan, wants in a playoff series. Two young, hungry, star-studded teams anxious to make a statement. Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon are both looking for their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final. This could be a series with a lot of goals. But the playoffs don’t just reward pure talent. If that was the case, the Florida Panthers wouldn’t have been swept. Playoffs also reward defensive structure and consistency.
Prediction: The Colorado Avalanche will finally break through that wall. Avalanche will win in seven games.
Game 1 is scheduled for 5/31 at 8:00 pm EST/5 pm PT.